Speaker frenzy focuses on Brooklyn members

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Melissa Mark-Viverito. (William Alatriste/NY City Council)
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Brooklyn's unaligned City Council members are at the center of a tug-of-war in the highly fluid contest to decide the next Council speaker.

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio and his surrogates are targeting several Brooklyn members perceived to be willing to break from the county's leadership, in an effort to rally support behind Melissa Mark-Viverito, multiple sources told Capital.

"They're going after independents and people they feel like are soft with (Brooklyn) county," said one source who is close to the process.

Those same members are also receiving calls from the other side of the speaker's fight: a united front of county leaders from Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx, along with others who oppose Mark-Viverito, sources said.

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Members being targeted by both sides include Robert Cornegy, Mark Treyger, and Chaim Deutsch, according to several sources.

After a Monday night conference call, one source close to the Brooklyn Democratic organization confirmed that the county believes it has eight of the 16 potential Brooklyn members willing to back a speaker candidate other than Mark-Viverito.

The source would not name those members, but others have pointed to Council members who were endorsed by the county organization in their elections.

Brooklyn county leader Frank Seddio plans to meet with the de Blasio team later today, several sources confirmed, though it's unclear whether de Blasio will attend the meeting.

When asked about de Blasio's involvement in the speaker's race, first reported by NY1 today, spokeswoman Lis Smith emailed a statement that acknowledged a more active role in the process than de Blasio's previous comments about staying out of the process.

"As he's always done, Mayor-elect de Blasio routinely talks with members of the City Council and other civic leaders about the critical issues facing New York City," said Smith. "The City Council will select the Speaker, and Mayor-elect de Blasio looks forward to working with the next Speaker and Council on passing a progressive reform agenda for New York City."

Meanwhile, sources in Mark-Viverito's camp are whispering that a deal to name her the next speaker is nearly complete.

"The counties just don't have the votes," said the source close to the process. "All those members (being targeted), I don't think they're going to be with Frank Seddio. If people see it's moving in a certain way, they start to abandon. They don't want to be on the wrong side."

This source said the county leaders, specifically Seddio, Queens boss Joe Crowley and Bronx leader Carl Heastie, "are still putting up a big, big fight."

The body's three Republican members are siding with the county leaders as well.

Another person close to the process said pressure from the incoming mayor is almost impossible to ignore.

"The mayor-elect was banging the table. That's what is making it hard. What are we supposed to tell them? Screw you? Not the easiest thing in the world to say," said the source, who is not in the Mark-Viverito camp.

"I think it's over," the source added. "I think she's the speaker."

Still, another source close to the process disputed the deal is almost done, despite pressure from de Blasio and the 22-member Progressive Bloc, which has pledged to unite behind a single candidate and seems to favor Mark-Viverito.

"It is not done," the source said. "In fact it looks like there may be a cross-current moving things in the other direction."

The county leaders, who have also pledged unity in the race, have not backed anyone yet but are said to be leaning toward Dan Garodnick, a Manhattan Democrat who has presented himself as a compromise candidate. Another option is Queens Democrat Mark Weprin.

Brooklyn failed to pick a winner during the last speaker's race, when Christine Quinn was elected speaker in 2006 with a bloc of support from Queens County.

It makes sense for de Blasio to target Brooklynites, since Crowley has better control of his members than Seddio, and Heastie and Mark-Viverito have a strained relationship, dating back to a fight over redistricting.

The next speaker will be chosen Jan. 8 by the body's 51 members.